Service‐Learning Trip to Cuba 2013
Students experience first‐hand the wonderful Cuban culture. Step back in time to what many consider the 1950s era (or is it?) and see a nation long considered our enemy…only to discover warm, kind and friendly people. They will find an intriguing mix of religions (Evangelical Christians, Catholic Christians, even idol worshipping) under the curtain of the atheistic ideology. Meet the people, visit and work with the local evangelical churches, orphanages, nursing homes, sports facilities and schools and overall have a good time while showing the love of God to a whole country living in need of Christ’s love in the flesh: you and me.
Jan. 17 - Final Thoughts
Final thoughts from the Cuba Interim participants:
One God moment that I had while in Cuba was when we were doing home visits with the Cuban people. While visiting, we asked what they needed us to pray for then and throughout the upcoming weeks ahead. Most were to pray for family members who didn't know the Lord yet, others were that the government would provide a new roof, more job opportunities, or just more food rations to live on. It was just an awesome experience knowing that we worship the same God and are able to connect through prayer even after we leave Cuba. Every time we left a house they said God bless you and be with you, and there is no doubt in my mind that he definitely did bless us throughout the trip and he was present the entire time.
I LOVED CUBA!!! Anna Hofman
My experience in Cuba was the greatest experience of my life! God really does work in great ways. The Cuban people were very kind and welcoming to us. This trip was a huge eye opener to me, and it made me realize how much we take things for granted. This trip also helped me realize more about myself, and it definitely got me to go outside of my comfort zone. One of the best parts of Cuba was the food. When it comes to food, I am one of the pickiest eaters you can find! I tried new foods, and I thought it was amazing! Overall, Cuba is a great country, and the people there are some of the nicest people you will ever meet. Through this trip, God has shown me that when one door closes, another one will open up. God works in great ways, and it was an amazing experience to come together as one body in Christ with the people of Cuba.
It was such a blessing to be a part of such an amazing experience. God is doing such amazing things in that country. I was expecting to teach them about Christ and his love, but they taught me so much more. They are so full of love and joy and are the most gracious and hospitable people I have ever met. I am so thankful that I was able to be a part of this trip.
This trip shattered my preconceived thoughts of Cuba. I believed Cuba’s people disliked Americans, but we created a memorable bond between the Cuban people through our relationship with Christ. We worked together to help Cuban people in need.
My experience in Cuba was an adventure that will never be forgotten. The Cuban people are held dear to my heart, and that has caused a changed in my attitude along with a stronger relationship with Christ. I cannot wait to see if God has any future plans for me to return, and I give all the glory to him because of safe travels and a life changing experience.
Spending my Interim visiting Cuba was probably the most amazing experience of my life. I learned so much about Cuba and its culture that I didn't know before. I was able to witness the great faith that many of the Cubans have in the Lord, and my own faith was able to grow because of it. The relationships that came from this trip are something that I will always treasure. Given the chance, I would pick this Interim again and again.
What really struck me the most about this whole trip was the Cuban people and their culture. They have so much love to give although they live in a Communist country. Getting to know them and how they worshiped the Lord really changed my life and strengthened my own faith. Even though we helped them out, they helped me out ALOT more in return. One of my favorite days was working with the kids from the orphanage and seeing their faces light up when we were playing with them. There are SO many memories I will never forget, and the Cuban people will continue to be in my prayers.
I have been on mission trips before, and they were nothing like this one. It is hard to say whether one is better than the others but I have definitely enjoyed them all equally. This trip meant a lot to me, because I love to serve others in any way that I can. I also love to travel, so this trip was a perfect trip for me. I had so much fun, and I loved to see that we really had an impact to the people of Cuba, particularly the ones we had close contact with. I am thankful that God allowed me the chance to go on this trip, and I am definitely blessed by the experience. Thanks again for Dr. Powell and her husband for setting everything up and being so flexible with the problems that came up when we were there. It is clear to me that God was watching over us no matter where we are.
There are many experiences in life that are kind of cool and you remember them forever. But, there are a whole lot fewer experiences which change your life forever. Our mission trip to Cuba was one of these rare experiences. From the relationships built, the church services, worship leading, serving kids and elderly folks, and the ways in which our eyes were opened to a new culture, I can't imagine a better way to have spent this past week. I will forever thank God for this experience.
The overall experience was phenomenal. I really enjoyed being in downtown Havana and people watching. I think that my favorite experience was playing soccer with the local guys from the church. God willing, I hope to get the opportunity to go back to Cuba.
Jan. 16 - Our Last Day
The last day in Cuba, and we have much ground to cover. We began our day touring many of the famous sites in Havana, including the fort where the Spanish defended the island against the English invasion, a large statue of Christo, and Revolution Square.
After a delicious pizza lunch, we headed for the beach and soaked up some Cuban sunshine. The team enjoyed the huge waves and throwing Nerf balls in the white sand, but soon it was time to pack up and leave. We all understood why people from all over the world come to Cuba to enjoy their beaches. It was beautiful.
On our way back to the hotel, we stopped in Old Havana and began our adventure by feeding the hundreds of pigeons in the square. Mario, our tour guide, bought some birdseeds, and soon we all had pigeons on our arms, heads and especially our hands if we had food. Some loved it and others were terrified, but it was definitely an experience. Then we walked around Old Havana, up and down the cities first cobblestone streets dating back to the 1600s. It was beautiful.
Our last night of devotions was bittersweet, as we know we will be parting ways soon. Even though we will see each other at Trinity, we won’t again have this experience with this group of people. We all agreed that we were deeply blessed by God throughout the week and that we had opportunities few Americans will ever experience.
Tomorrow we will again enter the Havana airport and are praying that we all get out quickly and safely as we make our way to Tampa and then Chicago. Your continued prayers have been a blessing, and we are thankful for all of the support from each of you.
Jan. 15 - Cuban Markets
Today we were so excited to be able to visit two Cuban markets. We all loved shopping for family and friends and had fun negotiating with the vendors. We found many handmade Cuban crafts that we will be bringing home to family and friends (as well as a few mementos for ourselves).
Then it was lunch and off for an hour bus ride to one of the ‘Honoring the Father’ baseball fields. The team members were all good sports as many had not played baseball in years and were asked to play a short game against a Cuban team of high school guys. And if that weren’t enough, the stands quickly filled up with what seemed like hundreds of seventh grade boys and girls that began chanting the Trinity team member’s names. I was fortunate enough to man the stands and lead the children in the cheers, and soon children surrounded me asking me hundreds of questions in Spanish. I did my best to answer them and much to my surprise, they were learning English in school, so they took out their notebooks, and I found English phrases that helped immensely in the communication.
While I was talking to the children, the Cuban baseball team surrounded our Trinity team and began praying all at once for the team. Many of our team had never experienced prayer in that form but were richly blessed. We also had the opportunity to see the churches being built. Parkview Christian Church, the church my husband and I attend, is supporting that. It was a special blessing to pray as a group for the new building and the people that will have the opportunity to worship there in the future.
The evening meal at Templo Bautista was delicious as usual but bittersweet as we knew we would not be seeing our cooks again. We said our goodbyes and prepared for an exciting last day in Cuba.
Jan. 13 - Doing Good
How can I begin to explain the experience that our team shared at an orphanage near downtown Havana? We were told that it would be nearly impossible to visit an orphanage while in Havana but that was the number 1 thing that almost everyone on the team wanted to do, so Pastor Jorge from Templo Bautista Church in Cuba made it happen. We were told that we could not evangelize, talk about Jesus, or mention God, but we could talk about being good children and leading good lives. So we did a puppet show based on the fruits of the spirit and called them ‘good virtues’ and told the story of the Good Samaritan talking about good neighbors and bad neighbors. We also changed the song ‘I Command My Hands to Praise the Lord’ to ‘I Command My Hands to Do Good.’
After a short program, we did crafts and played games with the 20 children who lived in the orphanage, which in Cuba is a combination foster care home and orphanage. But the highlight of the day was hanging a piñata in the back yard full of candy. The children were thrilled to see the huge clown face hanging from a tree knowing that soon they would have handfuls of candy.
We ended our time with the children by sharing gifts with both them and their housemother. We’ve been told that it is better to give gifts rather than money to bless the people we minister to so we’ve made that our practice.
After another delicious dinner, we worshipped with the Templo Bautista congregation and shared both short words of blessing for the people and two songs. Tomorrow brings our trip to ‘Honoring the Father,’ a little league baseball ministry. We are tired but thrilled at the difference we are making in this socialist/communist country. Our paradigms of Cuba have shifted dramatically, and we have learned so much about this beautiful country and outgoing and friendly people. Most of us are even learning a bit of Spanish since everyone speaks that language.
Please continue to pray for the Christians in this highly government regulated country as well as for the team. As God blesses us, we can pass along that blessing to our Cuban brothers and sisters in Christ.
Jan. 12 - Blessed Day
Today may have been our busiest and most blessed day yet. The day began early with a 1½ hour drive to a small Baptist church with many children. We had planned a program and games for them, including a puppet show of The Good Samaritan and a puppet show sharing The Fruits of the Spirit. The puppets were a huge hit with all of the children. We also taught them a song in sign language, which was also interpreted into English so three languages in one! We also shared Christian versions of the games Simon Says (Jesus says, the Diablo says), Red Light, Green Light (Jesus says), and Duck, Duck, Goose (Pato, Pato, Ganzo). We ended our time together by distributing Happy Meal donkey face watches, which we then had to go around a set to the correct time for each child. They asked us when we were returning, and it was very hard to tell them that we weren’t. After lots of hugs and kisses, we said our goodbyes and boarded our van for the 1 ½ hour drive back to the church.
After another delicious Cuban/American lunch (this time hamburgers, Cuban style), we prepared for an afternoon of soccer against some young men from the church. We had no idea how competitive our matches would be, but everyone participated, and we even won a few matches. The runners on our team, Kasey Zarema and Jimmy Burns, certainly got their workout for the day.
Then after dinner we participated in their Youth Service, done each Saturday. They had an excellent worship band, the small sanctuary was packed, and we again had the opportunity to share songs and testimonies.
We have been so deeply embraced by the people of Cuba and looking forward to future events including a visit to an orphanage, the church’s evening worship service, visiting Honoring the Father that is a little league ministry, and touring Old Havana.
Other than a few sniffles, everyone is healthy and enjoying the entire experience, even the food! Please continue to pray for safety and boldness as we continue to step out of our comfort zones and share the love of Jesus with the people of Cuba.
Jan. 14 - Church Visit
On Friday, the Cuba Interim team had the opportunity to return to the nursing home and lead chapel. Our team learned several songs in Spanish and gave testimonies and shared Bible verses special to our lives. Ryan Heath was able to share the story of how he and his wife were able to adopt three children from Nicaragua, and he did it in Spanish, which was such a blessing to the residents. The last song we did was “It is Well”, half sung in English and half in Spanish with each chorus sung in Spanish. The roof nearly came off our meeting room as the residents and the team together praised our Lord. It is well, with my soul, it is well, with my soul, it is well, it is well with my soul. We were sad to leave our new friends but are confident that we will see them again in heaven, with no language barriers or governments to separate us.
In the afternoon, our group was divided into four teams and had the unique opportunity to visit homes of the church’s parishioners and pray for their specific needs. Again, it’s hard to know who was more blessed by this experience, the team or the church members but each Interim member certainly has one or more stories to tell of their experiences.
We had the evening free, so we shared devotions and then several students took the opportunity to visit a nearby restaurant where live Cuban music was being played. It was a good day.
Jan. 10 - Nursing Home
It’s hard to believe that we’ve only been in Cuba a day since we have had so many experiences and seen so many sights. Today we began the day with an amazing breakfast at our hotel, the Hotel St. John’s, and then made our way to a nursing home associated with one of the churches we are working with. The girls massaged the women’s hands and then gave manicures while a group of Trinity guys played several rousing games of dominoes with some of the men. Afterwards, Megan Anderson led the group in several games of Bingo, calling out the letters and numbers in Spanish. Our new elderly friends gave us hugs and kisses as we left, but we will see them again tomorrow as we are leading a chapel at the nursing home in the morning. After a delicious lunch, we went to a neighboring church and did some cleaning and yard work and also prepared to lead the nursing home chapel and a one-day Bible School for young children on Saturday.
The afternoon brought quite an adventure as we had a bit of time to spare before dinner, so we went to del Rosario and walked around the town, the third oldest in Cuba. While there we took some time to sit in the park and practice learning our songs in Spanish for our upcoming events. We found ourselves singing Christian songs in a park and, while not in Cuba on a religious visa, the pastor with us noticed how many young boys were intently watching us, so he encouraged the men in our group to distribute tracts to those listening. All began reading them intently, and we were told that for many of them, it might have been their first introduction to the gospel. How exciting!
Back to church for another delicious meal and then the group broke in half and participated in worship at two home churches. It was a long and tiring day but one richly blessed as we are growing to love both our hosts and the people of Cuba.
Tomorrow will bring more adventures, delicious food, exciting experiences sharing the gospel, and more time with our new Cuban friends. God is good…all the time…all the time…God is good.
Jan. 11 - Updates
Internet is very difficult and expensive in Cuba, so I will not be sending regular updates. Everyone is fine and we are having an awesome time in Havana!
Jan. 9 - Baseball
The team has arrived safely in Havana after an interesting time in the airport. We brought in MANY baseballs, bats, and gloves for Honoring the Father. Each baseball went through the scanner, but we all made it through the airport in record time. We’ve met with our Cuban team, Mario, Jorge, and Noel and revised our schedule for the week. It will be a busy, fun, and God-glorifying week. Please pray for continued safety for the team and the people we minister to. We are in a very safe and beautiful part of Havana and are blessed to be able to minister in this beautiful country. We have found that it will be difficult to send pictures from our hotel as we don’t have a wireless connection but we’ll do our best. We will be making a video of our trip, so at some point all of you are invited to view it.
Jan. 8 - Safe Arrival
The Service-Learning Interim in Cuba group arrived safely in Tampa, Florida today to sunny blue skies and temperatures in the 80s. We are spending the night in the Chase Suite Hotels since we have to be at the airport tomorrow morning at 9 a.m. to leave for Havana, Cuba. At devotions this evening, we talked about how God has put us together and given us the opportunity to minister in Cuba at this exact time. We have a full week of ministry ahead of us and are eagerly and expectantly looking forward to what God will do both in and through us as we visit nursing homes, an orphanage, house churches, a little league ministry, and various other evangelical opportunities. Please pray that we are used mightily this week and that God is glorified in all we say and do.